Wednesday, June 10, 2009

But everyone else is parenting that way....

I'm going to follow up my Monday post by staying on the subject of teens and the low expectation our culture places on them. I really think it's important...almost urgent...that we understand, as adults, the seeds we plant or the aspirations we crush with our words and actions. But today, I want to address just parents and look at two areas: home and church.

Parenting a teenager must be one of the most challenging aspects of adult life...I can hear the collective 'amen' from those of you who relate. What I often fail to stop and realize is that it was no different for my parents when I was a teenager...or their parents when they were teenagers...and so on down the family tree.

Wait a minute Tony C, things are much different today than when you were a teen in the 70's.

You think? Technology and media sources may be different, but I don't think teens are actually any different because being a teen is as much about biological changes happening as it is about cognitive changes. Those same changes have been happening to growing young people I'd be willing to bet since Cain and Abel.

So what do we expect, as parents, from our teenagers today? listen to everything we say as parents and follow all instructions to the letter.

Hmmmm. That's realistic (eye roll). Well...I can ground you long as you live in...I don't care what other people are doing...jump off a bridge would...don't look at me come back here...

So basically what we are saying to our teens is we, as parents, don't trust they are either motivated, resilient or intelligent enough to breath unless we remind them. How could they even survive if I weren't around to keep them alive?

Not exactly a boosting shot of confidence to a person trying to break from complete adolescent dependents to autonomy. I mean after all, isn't our biological function as parents to prepare our children to successfully live independently? There is a fine balance between trust and control that no amount of James Lehman's Total Transformation can help you find. I'm constantly struggling to let go of my need for control and just accept that my teenager will make mistakes from time to time as she figures out who she is and where she wants to go in life. My job probably needs to be more facilitator and less dictator...which brings me to my second

While growing up, I didn't have a choice about going to church...if mom went...I went. I'm not necessarily implying that's a bad thing, but during my teenage-typical rebellious stage, it was the fodder for a number of forced...shall we say...disagreements on my part. Facts are facts and teenagers are going to find issues to argue about with their parents. Should we let church become a lightning rod?

After reading Do Hard Things and reflecting on my own parent/teenager relationship, I realized I was making my daughter do something that God doesn't force me to do. God gave me free will to accept Him and follow His word...He doesn't force me to do that. Yet, I'm forcing my daughter to attend church when I do even though she accepted Christ on her own. Why?

Control. I want my daughter to go to church because she wants to go to church and worship....not because I force her to go. There are staggering statistics about post-graduation teens who stop attending church, alter their faith, or abandon their beliefs all together. I'm not saying the only reason for the exodus is an exertion of independence from the way mom and dad do things, but I do believe it's a contributing circumstance.

Parenting is a subjective issue, so please don't feel I'm trying to tell you how to do it. Heck...I'm figuring it out as I go. What I am trying to do is challenge you to think about the status quo. Does holding low expectations and thus forcing our will on our teenagers make them better prepared to be adults? To be better Christians? If I may be so bold, I'll answer those questions with a question...

Is the love of God manifested in His giving of free will resulting in His extension of grace and mercy?

Seems like a perfect template to help me be a better parent...


David said...

Wow, Tony, you are gettin' slammed! You know a little error and trial -- learned that from the teenager -- that seems to be good for us. God bless you man.

For many that abandon church, they have a wrong view of who the Father is. "Dad, you told me that Jesus loved me, and nobody at church talks to me really. And the other kids, they are in their own cliques-- that can't be God!"

Hey, and I am supposed to be the role model for God the Father, my marriage a role model for the love of Christ in the church. Shoot! Is it too late to appeal my grade?

Only one little bit of experience-- 'cause the ones old enough to be married, aren't yet. I tried to take them to worship services that were aimed at kids-- sometimes driving 170 miles each way, conferences like Acquire the Fire and Christian music festivals like Soul Fest. I lost my hearing for a week during a OC Supertones/Pillar show. But one thing I know, is that my kids are fireproof, in spite of the piercings and tattoos- which I would never have let them get.

I have watched them dance in the streets for Jesus. I saw my daughter bring and entire family to Christ on the sidewalk in some little city. Some of it worked and some of it didn't-- but that is their story.

My 18-year-old daughter dumped the unbeliever for the pastors kid, and they are going on their first date tonight. To church!

The other one I took to lunch, and we talked about her BF in between text messages and bights of a BLT.

God is good. I just wonder if He and I are anything alike?

Z said...

Mr. Z has two adult children; he says the biggest mistake he ever made was giving them NO RELIGION thinking they should come to some choice when they're older. They haven't.
I'd be saying the kids go to church as much as possible as long as they're living in the house.
But, that's why God gave me no kids; I'd be too strict a disciplinarian and nothing's that cut and dried, anyway.
God bless you in trying to figure this all out; you're a better man than I am.
But, then, I'm a GIRL! :-)